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87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

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87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:07 pm

So my car didn't pass emissions last time, and my mechanic says it's because it's burning oil. I'm going to get a 2nd opinion because the car is older than he is, but I want to figure out what my options are.

JDM doesn't appear to carry engines for the gen 1, and the ballpark figure my mechanic quoted me was around $5000 for a rebuild. Has anybody had any luck with either something like Rebuilt Crate Engines or getting a junkyard one?

My car is pretty much falling apart anyway (body rust & cracks, noisy trans, other random stuff that goes wrong after 280,000 miles) so on paper I'd probably be better off just getting another one and using it for what parts are still salvageable but I've had it for 20+ years and it's been the most reliable car I've ever had so I'm reluctant to let go of it. The engine still isn't that bad, it's not smoking heavily or anything yet. But there is a noticeable burnt smell after I get home from work (about 12 miles on the freeway). What are the chances that this could be solved by something less extreme than a total overhaul or new engine?

I've got it registered as vintage for now so I don't technically need the emissions but officially I'm not supposed to use it as a daily driver with that tag so I'd like to figure something else out before the snow starts falling.
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby Myriad » Thu Jun 15, 2017 11:03 pm

It depends on why your engine is burning oil. For example, you could just have valve guides that are worn; they cost MUCH less to replace than overhauling the whole block. I'd try to get it diagnosed, but burning oil can be tricky to hunt.
The LumberJack and Big Red. It's happening; slowly, but still.

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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:54 pm

Well, I took it in for a 2nd opinion from a classic car specialist today and unfortunately it was as bad or worse than my other mechanic thought. One cylinder wasn't putting out any compression at all and the other three weren't so hot either. On the bright side he thought the transmission noise was just something in the clutch (something... ring? I think it started with a T) so maybe that's still solid. He thought he might have a line on a junkyard engine with less than 40K on it so we'll see what happens.
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:50 pm

Update: the classic car shop checked and the salvage motor tested good when it was brought in, but that was in 1991. They said there would be a 30 day warranty on the motor and a year on the labor. He said he'd installed about 100 salvage motors over the years and the only one that had gone bad was due to low oil (operator error) but typically they have about a 10-15% failure rate. It would be around $2000-$2500 for the motor, shipping and installation, which is a couple grand less than having the existing one rebuilt. IDK, I'm thinking about just going for it? For the condition the rest of the car is in, it seems like a happy medium. Has anybody had success with installing a used engine like this?
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby Myriad » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:14 pm

The older first gen engines are a bit harder to find, but they shouldn't be too expensive. I've done engine swaps with my brother on a couple vehicles and it's never cost more than a grand. We did the labor ourselves, but it still shouldn't cost too much. Roughly $300 to $800 for a long-block sounds right, a couple hundred for shipping if required, and about a few hundred for installation (removal & installation is just labor-hours).

Time and difficulty are economic costs too. $2.5k could be very reasonable, but I would ask for it to be blueprinted for that price. If doing it myself, I would have the engine sent to a machine shop to be inspected again before installation. (Get a friend with a truck and pay him with pizza, way cheaper than crate shipping.)
The LumberJack and Big Red. It's happening; slowly, but still.

I've got a filter for my mouth, it just isn't a good one.
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Wed Sep 20, 2017 7:41 pm

The plot thickens: I had taken it back to the classic car specialist because I saw some smoke coming from the engine compartment after driving home from work last week. He wasn't able to replicate that issue (he thought it may have been some coolant blowing out of the overflow tube) but he checked the vacuum and pressure again, and it turned out there wasn't actually a dead cylinder, it's just that all 4 of them are only putting out 75 psi. They held pressure and didn't leak. He said he'd never seen anything quite like it in two decades.

Has this ever happened to anybody else?

It's carbureted, and I've had issues with it not starting on the first try since having the carburetor rebuilt a couple of years ago. It got better for a while when I started pumping the gas twice instead of only once on the first start of the day, but recently it sometimes takes 4-5 tries to start after sitting overnight or for a few days (it's fine after sitting for only a few hours).

I had resigned myself to having the existing engine overhauled rather than replacing it, but once it actually starts it doesn't run noticeably worse than it has for years. Is it possible the issue is actually something else? I'm in SLC (elev. approx. 4500) if that makes a difference, and I have noticed improved performance closer to sea level. It's old enough that I don't actually have to get it smogged anymore and it's not visibly smoking from the exhaust or anything normally so maybe if I can get it to start on the first try I'll just live with it the way it is until the compression gets bad enough that I can't drive at freeway speeds.
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby Myriad » Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:34 pm

Have you ever had it tuned? Elevation is VERY important for carburetors (one reason everyone switched to port injection) and the carb needs adjusted for various altitudes.

It's starting to sound like false claims have you worried about your car. I would say to degrease and clean the engine bay; real easy, you get a spray can of the stuff and follow the directions on the can. After that, watch the oil level with the dipstick. If you are leaking or burning oil, you'll know for yourself by looking for residue and the oil level dropping.

Doing the above will give you insight on the work needed. If you're not losing oil fast, you can hold off on the rebuild until a cylinder finally kicks the can. If you're leaking, you could get just that one piece fixed.
The LumberJack and Big Red. It's happening; slowly, but still.

I've got a filter for my mouth, it just isn't a good one.
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Sat Oct 14, 2017 1:01 pm

Tuned like by a speed shop? No, although the carb was rebuilt since I lived here so I'd hope they would have adjusted it correctly at that time. The carb thing may be a red herring, though, because I tried adding Heet last time I got gas and it's actually starting more easily now so maybe that issue was actually condensation in the fuel lines or something otherwise unrelated to the compression problem. (I used to use Heet in the winter to deal with warm start problems, stopped for a while when I figured out that the warm start issue went away when I stopped pumping the gas on start after the first start of the day.)

I bought some engine degreaser but I'm a little nervous about accidentally setting something on fire. Would something like Simple Green do the job? The car is garaged and I'm not noticing significant leakage on the floor.
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby Myriad » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:27 pm

With carburetors, tuning is more about getting it all dialed in to run nice and smooth than it is with making more power. There's many adjustments and everything needs re-done when the carb gets rebuilt, but it can only be done well when it's on the car and running. With the vibrations and normal wear, it also needs re-tuned every once in a while regardless. It used to be that you'd take your car in once a year or so and have it happen, but now it's just "change these parts and your car's all tuned up!" I digress.

Why'd you be worried about a fire? You're not supposed to apply it while the car is running, only when it's rinsed off. :lol:

I don't have any experience with Simple Green. I'm sure there's another thread here that talks about it or somebody else who has used it.
The LumberJack and Big Red. It's happening; slowly, but still.

I've got a filter for my mouth, it just isn't a good one.
Myriad
 
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Fri Jan 05, 2018 4:10 pm

Got busy with a project on my other car during the holidays and never got around to degreasing it, but taking a closer look, it's cruddier than I thought it was, and it is leaking some oil. There are a few drops on the floor toward the front driver's side and the front of the engine is pretty sludgy, some of it looks fresh.

https://imgur.com/7ayY3Lo

Is that a sign of a bad seal or gasket?
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby Myriad » Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:31 am

Yeah, the sludge is always worse than you think. If it hasn't been attended to for a few years, it can cake up pretty bad. After cleaning up a block, head and transmission this last fall, I made a promise to myself that I'd either have the machine shop do it or I use a pressure washer. You'll probly have to wait for the spring thaw now, but I advise for a pressure washer route.

On a 30 year old car, I'd expect for some seals to be bad. If your engine bay was clean, I'd definitely say yes; but oily crud accumulates regardless, so I can't say. Gotta clean it to find out :lol:
The LumberJack and Big Red. It's happening; slowly, but still.

I've got a filter for my mouth, it just isn't a good one.
Myriad
 
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:35 pm

It warmed up enough to attempt degreasing yesterday. I got some of the crud off with the Gunk citrus stuff, but it's still a pretty nasty mess in there. There was a lot of grease near the distributor cap and I was afraid to mess around with that too much, but I got the front of the engine somewhat cleaner and after a test drive, spotted some leaks here:

https://imgur.com/a/BFiPx

There was a lot of black crud below the rim of the valve cover when I was cleaning it, so I assume I need to replace the valve cover gasket? Maybe the header gaskets too?

Also I spotted fresh leakage on the bottom of the transmission. It's been making a noise at high speeds, the mechanic thought it was a throwout bearing going bad, but could low trans fluid cause that? I don't think I've ever had it changed.
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:27 pm

So I pulled the valve cover off today, but I'm not 100% sure what I'm looking at. There seems to be a plastic bit around the rim of the cover, is that the old gasket? If not, the old gasket seems to have just... disappeared? It would explain the leakage. :shock:

https://imgur.com/a/DdbfX

The cover seems to be warped by the oil filler. I assume I have to replace the whole thing instead of trying to pound it back into shape with a rubber mallet or something?
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:23 pm

After further investigation the part I thought was plastic and part of the cover turned out to be the old gasket. It was just super hard and nasty I guess? It had these knobbly things around the edges and one of them had come out of the notch in the cover and gotten warped but the actual cover doesn't look as bad as I thought. I might order another one if I can find one just in case I need it later, though.
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby Myriad » Wed Oct 31, 2018 8:07 pm

That's a pretty bad valve-cover gasket. Definitely replace that. When they get hard and plastic-y, they don't seal at all; you know it's bad when you bend it and it snaps into pieces.
The LumberJack and Big Red. It's happening; slowly, but still.

I've got a filter for my mouth, it just isn't a good one.
Myriad
 
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Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015 5:49 pm
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby StorminMatt » Tue Jan 15, 2019 10:24 pm

I know this is an old thread. But honestly, $5000 to rebuild a 1G motor is just insanity to me. For that amount of money, you could have a GSR swap in your car! If you want to stay with the original engibe, I would recommend you try to find a good used engine. This should cost you no more than a few hundred. Maybe even less. It might cost a few hundred more to drop it in. And you are on your merry way for a whole lot less. Better yet, try dropping the engine in yourself. In the grander scheme of automotive work, engine swaps are pretty simple. And you will gain a good amount of familiarity with your car. After all, I am a firm believer that, if you own an older car like a CRX, you should learn how to ‘do it yourself’. Not only does this reduce repair costs on an older car that inevitably needs LOTS of attention. But it becomes part of the hobby itsef. It would also be worthwhile to keep your old motor so that you can someday rebuild it yourself - for FAR less than $5000!
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Re: 87 DX engine burning oil - Rebuild or replace?

Postby DaraSue » Tue Sep 22, 2020 12:52 pm

Well, everybody can say "I told you so"... I bit the bullet and had the engine overhauled and trans replaced at the beginning of last year because I'd been making a ton of overtime and figured why not.

The shop I had it done at did a competent job with the trans at least, but if I hadn't seen the engine out of the car with my own eyes, I wouldn't believe they'd done anything to it at all. Still drips oil, takes multiple tries to start if it sits for more than a day and took extra work to pass emissions both times since getting it back. Kind of think I could have solved the original issue with a $600 cat and carb adjustment. FML...
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